The focus of our weekly practice is gratitude — expressing our appreciation and thankfulness. To be grateful is to be truly sincere in the moment when we actually want to and should thank someone! Imagine the space of harmony, peace and connection we could create by praising someone when they truly deserve it and being able to recognize when we would have liked to be thanked. (The latter is a whole topic in itself, how to find the courage to express without resentment and contention that we would have liked to have been thanked. That will be another blog!)
First, however, let’s look at why gratitude and our ability to express it is so important.
I speak to employees in a wide range of capacities from different organizations, within different industries — and located in different countries. It is astounding how after few minutes of exchange, people consistently share with me how they would love to be more appreciated. People tell me that they’d really like to hear it – not all the time like routine praise, but when they’ve done something well that is warranting recognition. Being truly fully acknowledged and appreciated in the moment does a couple of things: for the giver, it makes you a more empowering leader, in our families, in our communities and our businesses. And as a receiver, gratitude tends to motivate the one who is the recipient of appreciation.
Leaders I work with often tell me that it feels vulnerable and awkward, no, embarrassing, to express gratitude and yet, it is so empowering. As leaders, we often tend to be our hardest – and harshest – critics, and by being highly self-critical, it often can become challenging to really see what others do and take the time to acknowledge. The uncomfortable feeling of embarrassment we are worried about experiencing comes from shyness in expressing feelings from the heart. And, what’s wrong about opening up our heart when we actually have our heart at our core, and feelings are what make us human?
It should be easy to sincerely praise someone when they do something well, when their efforts make a difference and make us proud and when we genuinely respect what they did. Saying ‘thank you’ is very important, and we should consciously intend to show our appreciation. It is so nice to not be taken for granted, isn’t it?
As a leader, it is important to care about inspiring. Taking the time to recognize how others contribute to our success, and the milestones they successfully accomplish when they actually accomplish them, enhances our connection with our employees, increases morale and contributes to building a better culture. It is important to acknowledge what is positive, to appreciate a team’s efforts, to praise direct reports and peers when they have done something well. To express gratitude means that your intention is beyond yourself, intended to acknowledge the other. Everybody feels good when they hear a sincere thank you.
We can begin being mindful in our ability to say thank you by reflecting how we ourselves can be thankful for who and what we have in our lives, starting at home. If we don’t have anyone to be thankful for, how do we look at our lives and how do we appreciate who we are, our health, where we live, what we eat, the nature around us, the fact that while we might not have all means, we do have some things. If we get up and eat, we can be appreciative of the gift of being alive. We do feel abundant.
There are so many gifts around us. You might be the gift to your friend when they can count on you, you can be a gift to an organization because of your ability to lead effectively, your children, your partner, your parents, your teachers, your mentors, your nurses, your doctors, your dentist, your hairdresser, the cashier at the grocery store, the waiter… There are so many opportunities for us to embrace being thankful and express our gratitude every single day. Whenever something is done for you, you can say ‘thank you.’ Gratitude in itself is a gift. When you are grateful, your life changes in ways that you can’t imagine.
When we are grateful, we live in a space of abundance rather than scarcity. Capturing a quote from Tony Robbins, “When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.”
Arianna Huffington, author of her 14th book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, the chair, president, and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, wrote, “I’ve come to believe that living in a state of gratitude is the gateway to grace.”
She further elaborated that she loves how UC Davis Professor Robert Emmons, a leading expert in the science of gratitude, put it: “Without gratitude, life can be lonely, depressing and impoverished. Gratitude enriches human life. It elevates, energizes, inspires and transforms. People are moved, opened and humbled through expression of gratitude.”
One of the hottest real estate agents in the country, Joel Goodrich, was featured as the Sunday Profile in the San Francisco Chronicle on November 9th, 2014. He talked about how he had a “riches-to-rags tumble in the 80’s from a career as a currency trader…to joblessness in the Tenderloin”
“It fundamentally changed my values and how I looked at my life,” he said. “Before, I had taken my successes for granted. You learn to be grateful – without that, you’ll never be happy no matter how much or how little you have.”
So why does it often take a crisis or an event to shake us up, to make us embrace gratitude?
I invite everyone to wake-up, start the day being grateful, simply appreciating ‘being alive.’ We breathe and have a heartbeat. We are alive! We can’t take anything for granted. We have abundance by just being alive, here and now.
This coming week, let us be more conscious of expressing our appreciation. Let us also not take for granted that it is a two-way communication. A leader can praise a subordinate and a peer, an employee can say thank you to her manager. A board chair can thank a director, a presenter can thank his audience, a patient can thank his doctor, a receptionist can thank a patient for being on time, a parent can thank a teacher, a father can thank his son for a ride to the doctor, a daughter can thank her mother for taking care of her children and we can teach our children to say ‘thank you’ more often.